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PGA Tour looks to widen its reach with PGA Tour China

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While in Shanghai for the WGC-HSBC Champions, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem announced the creation of the China Professional Golf Tour (PGA Tour China). The Tour will debut in 2014 and will feature 12 tournaments throughout the country, with purses of approximately $200,000 per tournament.

The tournament, which brought top players from all over the world to China, signifies the increasing globalization in the world of professional golf. The game is growing at an incredible rate in Asia and especially China, and the creation of the PGA Tour China promises to continue the growth of professional golf in this region.

Further details, such as specifics on Web.com Tour Qualifying, will be announced at a later date, but it can be assumed that the new PGA Tour China, in addition to growing the game locally, may serve as a feeder tour for the Web.com Tour in years to come. Much like other PGA Tours around the world, such as PGA Tour Canada and PGA Tour Latinoamerica, the PGA Tour China will provide players from around the world the chance to qualify for the Web.com Tour and ultimately the PGA Tour, should they so choose.

Assuming the PGA Tour China follows the lead of the PGA Tour Canada and the PGA Tour Latinoamerica and offers Web.com Tour membership to top players, we can assume that this Tour could offer an avenue for top Asian players to showcase their skills across the world in years to come.

The PGA Tour Canada, originally the Canadian Professional Golf Tour (and before that the Peter Jackson Tour) became known as the PGA Tour Canada in late 2012. The Tour now offers Web.com Tour exemptions to top players. In the past, top players such as Steve Stricker, Todd Hamilton, Jason Bohn, Mike Weir and Graham DeLaet have honed their craft north of the border in Canada. This past year, 28 former PGA Tour Canada players teed it up at the Web.com Tour Championship.

Down South, the PGA Tour Latinoamerica was also formed in 2012. The tour consists of 14 tournaments (in 2013) hosted across Mexico and South America. Like the Canadian Tour, the top five players each season earn status on the Web.com Tour, with the money leader becoming fully exempt. Although the majority of the Tour’s players hail from South America and Mexico, there are several other nationalities represented, including the U.S.

In comparing these three regions of the world, we see that there is potential (and even current success) in these geographies. The following table shows the number of top players from Canada, China and South America respectively. Although players from these three tours will come from all over the world, there is and will be a great opportunity for local players to compete and grow their games on these tours.

Top Players by Region

As seen above, the number of players from each of these regions varies significantly. Although it isn’t fair to compare these regions (of varying size) side by side, it is noteworthy that more players from these regions than ever before are featuring in the top 1000 in the world.

Going forward, the creation and growth of PGA tours in Canada, China and Latin America promise to grow the success of professional golf in these areas. Local tours with direct pathways to the Web.com and PGA tours provide players with the ability gain entry into top tournaments with increased purses and more OWGR points on the line.

The number of players from these regions in the top 100 in the world is still relatively lacking, but the abundance of players in the top 1,000 showcase the potential of these regions to continue to grow on the highest stages of world golf. Many of these players (such as Angel Cabrera) are already top players, followed by hundreds of players from the younger generation ready to burst their way onto the scene.

It should also be noted that these rankings are only representative of the professional game. Many amateur players are making their marks in the worlds of junior and collegiate amateur golf. Canadians have had more and more success in collegiate golf, and Chinese/Asian players (such as Guan Tianlang) have already shown incredible promise on the world stage.

The continued globalization of golf as a world sport leads perfectly into golf’s resurgence as an Olympic sport in 2016. The XXXI Olympic Summer Games in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro will be (among many other things) a showcase of the world’s best golfers.

Look for the Olympic Games to feature an incredibly diverse leaderboard of players from all over the world.

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Will works in Toronto, and as a hobby pursues sports analytics, specifically in the world of golf. He writes articles that use statistics (correlation, rather than causation) to bring (sometimes farfetched) insights and raise discussion about international golf. Will played college golf and competed internationally for Canada as a junior. These days, he’s a weekend player with a fondness for violent duck hooks.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. matt

    Dec 12, 2013 at 12:46 am

    purses are so large mainly because of Tim Finchem’s ideas he has brought forth to the PGA Tour. for example, world golf challenges, the presidents cup, the fedexcup….dude is a genious trying to globalize the game of golf. best thing thats happened to the sport

  2. Conrad MacDonald

    Nov 16, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    That’s your opinion. I respect that, but you didn’t make the original comment.

  3. Harvey

    Nov 16, 2013 at 4:42 am

    If the PGA tour wants to keep up with the race to Dubai it needs to open up its doors and become more accessible to non American player. I myself play in Europe and having to relocate to the USA for a year to play web.com is crazy when I can continue competing worldwide and also have Q school at the end of the year. Why not have feeder tours to the PGA worldwide?

  4. Evan

    Nov 15, 2013 at 11:13 pm

    Furthermore, it’s not Mick’s comment that caught my attention and I don’t care to hear Mick explain his relatively simple response. Your comment is the inappropriate and inflammatory one.

  5. mick

    Nov 13, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    I understand the Tour’s financial incentive for expanding into China/Asia, but is this really in the best interest of the game? Look at what has happened to women’s golf…

    • Conrad MacDonald

      Nov 13, 2013 at 10:35 pm

      are you indicating we shouldn’t open the golf market to Asians, specifically because they dominate the field?… little racist IMO

      • Evan

        Nov 14, 2013 at 1:32 pm

        I don’t believe he is trying to be racist… I think he is speaking from a marketing/ audience interest standpoint. Unless someone is speaking to racial inferiority or inequality I don’t think we should say someone is being racist. Also your statement of Asians “dominating” the LPGA field or any other golf field is also inaccurate. Asian golfers have made a big presence on the LPGA tour but I would not say they are dominating. It has more to do with the interest level and work ethic, especially in Korea. They are women’s golf crazy right now and has nothing to do with their ethnicity. Lorena Ochoa, Annika Sorenstam, Suzanne Petterson. These are all players that are not Asian (nor American) that have had GREAT success on the tour in the last 5-10 years.

        What I am taking from Mick’s comment is that it is possible that there would be an immediate dozen or so players who might be relevent on the PGA tour but not garner the marketing/ viewership that American players would receive. Much the same if Asian or African or European players entered the NFL or NBA suddenly and did not receive the same fan fair and marketing pull as household name American/ Canadian players do.

        The PGA tour purses are so large and the tour is so successful because of players like Tiger Woods/ John Daly/ Padraig Harrington/ Rory Mcillroy. They are all very different and from very different places and walks in life, but what is the same about these players is that they are interesting characters that American audiences can relate to and enjoy. Language is the major immediate barrier between having a athlete being successful in a foreign market. If you can’t relate directly to the person through interviews and media it is difficult to increase their fan base.

        • Evan

          Nov 14, 2013 at 3:04 pm

          BTW, Sweden is currently a hotbed for women’s golf especially considering the size of the country and their climate. I haven’t heard anyone say that Swedish women are dominate because they are Swedish. Let’s keep race out of a dollars and cents conversation.

          • Conrad MacDonald

            Nov 15, 2013 at 1:09 pm

            I believe “dominate” is well used in this situation. Currently 27 of the top 50 women’s golfers are from Asia. If this trend continues, so will that number. There is obviously other great golfers from other nationalities as you stated; however, most of those athletes you mentioned are older and played the majority before the Asians hit the market. I agree with language barriers and such. I also would like to know what “mick” meant as we can speculate all day on what he meant… I wasnt sure what he meant exactly, hence the question mark above.

          • Evan

            Nov 15, 2013 at 11:10 pm

            I believe you are the one who threw the word racist/ racism up on the board when there was no clear sign of race being a topic here… only a market and a tour.

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Tour Photo Galleries

10 interesting photos from the 2020 Players Championship

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2020 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

The field this week featured the best golfers in the world, including Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, and more.

Rory McIlroy enters the tournament as the defending champion, looking hoist the crystal again.

Check out all our galleries below, along with highlights from TPC Sawgrass.

General Galleries

Special Galleries

Bettinardi’s St. Patrick’s Day covers  

Brand-new Srixon 745 in Keegan’s bag

Roger Sloan’s custom Cameron

Mizuno JPX 919 Hot Metal irons spotted in Nick Watney’s bag 

Joel Dahmen with a battle-worn hybrid

Fresh eggs for Patrick Reed…

Justin Rose continues to tweak his equipment

Carlos Ortiz looks to be picking up some supplies to mark the end of his driveway…

Jordan Spieth with a Vokey WedgeWorks Proto 60T in the bag

Kiradech Aphibarnrat with lead tape and stamping on cavity-back irons. Solid! 

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Tour News

GolfWRX Spotted: Justin Rose with mixed bag at Arnold Palmer Invitational

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It’s not very often we get breaking equipment news this time of year on the PGA Tour schedule, but this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, one of the highest-profile players on tour, Justin Rose, was spotted testing multiple brands of clubs throughout his entire bag.

It started last week at the Honda Classic when Rose put a TaylorMade SIM driver with Mitsubishi Kuro Kage in play. As of today’s first round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rose has a mixed set including TaylorMade, Cobra, and Titleist clubs, along with an Axis1 putter.

Here are the details of Rose’s equipment:

Driver: TaylorMade SIM (10.5 degrees @ 8.5)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 70 TX

3-wood: TaylorMade SIM Max (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 80 TX

5-wood: Cobra SpeedZone Tour (16.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 80 X

Irons: TaylorMade P730 (4-PW)
Shafts: Project X 6.5

Wedges: TaylorMade MG2 (52, 56 degrees), Titleist Vokey Design Prototype K Grind (60 degrees)
Shafts: Project X 6.5 (52, 56), Proto Hi-Rev 135X (60)

Putter: Axis1 Rose
Grip: Flat Cat Svelte

Ball: TaylorMade TP5 ‘19 (No. 1)

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Equipment

Inside look: Callaway Jaws MD5 wedges on tour…6 months after launch

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Callaway Jaws MD5 wedges hit professional golf tours months ago. We reported on the launch extensively (see our videos later in the article) with deep coverage on the PGA Tour and at retail. As with any new offering, and especially for the gearheads on GolfWRX, it’s the tour chatter that drives us. What the pros do, play, and think is always a driving force.

However…

Personally, I have always been fascinated by the aftermath of a launch. What are the reactions and tweaks that are made once the shine has worn off?  It’s not uncommon for players to need to warm up to a new product before it ultimately finds its way into the bag permanently.

When Jaws hit the scene, it integrated quite quickly, and that is saying a lot. The MD4 was a very successful wedge line on tour and at retail. It was a huge initial launch and one Callaway was happy with as a solid portion of its staff put Jaws in play straight away.

In my conversations with tour staff and techs, spin and lower ball flight has been a recurring theme. In the case of the Tour, being able to flight a wedge down and not have it float, while maintaining maximum spin, is a weapon. Imagine being at Honda last week and knowing you can hit a knee-high fastball with a 58-degree wedge and trust the ball will stay down, not skip, and will stop dead in its tracks. On tour, its the speed of the stop that is valuable, not ripping it backward—that is typically only fun for TV. Golf these days is more like darts and less like billiards.

As to be expected, the grinds on all Callaway wedges are tour favorites. It’s pretty simple to fall in love with something that comes ought of the mind of Roger Cleveland, who has been the driving force in putting Callaway consistently at the No. 2 most-played wedge on Tour.

But how has the MD5  really done thus far?

Let’s be clear, most guys don’t make switches late-summer or fall (when MD5 was launched on tour). The season is too far down the river and the coming winter gives them quiet time to really test. Also, when you work through the California swing, a good portion of the higher-ranked staff only poke their heads out once or twice. This doesn’t mean the guys on the truck aren’t building new products, but a good portion of it is for winter testing, emergency backups, etc.

But now we hit the Florida swing. The Masters is a month away. The world’s best start to show up consistently, the playing surfaces change from the West Coast to the East Coast, and all of these guys are in full attack mode. Any real testing or guesswork is pretty much done, and it’s time to get going. This is the time when you can actually see if a product has staying power.

The question is since Jaws hit the scene, what have the pros learned, what adjustments have been made to dial them in, and ultimately, is this wedge line a success? I wanted to tackle this question from two different perspectives: from the reps on tour and two young staff players that have them in play.

In this case, there is the guy on the Callaway tour trailer who is in charge of wedges, Simon Wood, and young tour staffers Akshay Bhatia and Min Woo Lee.

Three unique perspectives—and also perspectives that give us an honest look at the performance and popularity of a “new” wedge on Tour.

I talk with Simon Wood quite a bit. He’s a good as they get in this category, having worked for years in Europe and on the U.S. tour. His knowledge is extensive and even more importantly, he is ridiculously honest. If the product is solid and he believes in it, he will tell you. If he goes quiet, there’s that too.

I caught up with him on a day off and this was the update he gave:

Wunder: It seems MD5 came out of the gates quickly and never really slowed down, are you surprised at the response?

Wood: Not at all. Truth is, these players are very particular about what makes it in or out of the bag. A new club has to do something better than the old one and do all the things they liked about the old one. The Jaws really spins. This is a unique groove system, and I’ve noticed the players like it for two main reasons 1) They can keep the trajectory down on the high lofts 2) they can be a bit more aggressive because of the amount of spin these wedges offer. Out on tour that’s a big deal.

Wunder: What percentage of staff (25+players on U.S. Tours) are in the MD5 across the board?

Wood: I’d say close to 50 percent, which is a good number considering how many good options are out there.

Wunder: Now that we are in the Florida swing, are you having to do anything special to adjust to the new grass and conditions?

Wood: No its the opposite actually. I think with the grooves being as good as they are and the number of options we have grind wise, we on the truck are doing less tweaking and grinding to wedges. That’s a sign one the R&D team did a great job with this design and two that our players trust our product enough to let their creativity take over.

Wunder: Any surprise grinds that are popping up more often?

Wood: It’s not a surprise because we knew it was good, but the low bounce W has been a hit thus far. Lots of guys testing and gaming that one.

I then went on to chat with Callaway staffers Min Woo Lee (winning WITB, podcast link below) and Akshay Bhatia on their experience with Jaws. This perspective was interesting because Akshay is young, he’s fighting for a place to play this summer, and he’s still learning the nuances of playing as a professional. Min just recently won in Australia and has enough time under his belt now to understand a real asset over something he’s still trying to make work.

Point is: pressure is high on both of these kids, and the last thing either wants to struggle with is their wedges.

Wunder: You were an early adopter of the MD5 last fall, have you noticed any significant improvement over your previous gamers?

Bhatia: Trust is the biggest one. I love the shape of these wedges and just knowing that Roger and Phil have an influence on the wedges you are playing gives me so much confidence. From a performance standpoint, I like the variety in grinds the MD5 offers. Anywhere I play I have an option, whether it be X in soft conditions or C for the firmer turf.

Wunder: With the aggressive grooves of the MD5, what shots have you gained that you didn’t have before?

Bhatia: Definitely the off-speed/three-quarter shots with some spin. These wedges really keep the ball down and it’s a bonus when I know I can take something off of a shot and the ball will stay down and hold its line into the wind.

Wunder: And your current set up is?

Bhatia: Currently, I’m in the Jaws MD5 50S, 54S bent to 55, and the 60C or X depending on the conditions (KBS $Taper 130X shafts in black with Iomic grips) with some heel and toe relief in the X. I also like to mess around wit the PM Grind 60 if I’m looking for a different look.

Young Callaway staffer Min Woo Lee, who recently triumphed at the European Tour’s Vic Open, has this to say

Wunder: What ball flight differences do you see in Jaws over the past wedge set?

MWL: Overall the same. I like to pick my trajectory. So if I didn’t like it,  I wouldn’t have put it in my bag…need to have every shot at my disposal.

Wunder: Do you do any extra grinding to your S?

MWL: Just in the 60, there is a little leading edge relief ground in. Prevents it from digging and gives me a bit more ability to be aggressive into it.

Wunder: Are there any other grinds you tried?

MWL: I tried the low bounce W and really liked, but the S grind has been my go-to for a long time, I know how to play with that one.

Wunder: As far as full shot turf interaction, why do you prefer the S?

MWL: The S is always what I’ve been into looks-wise, nothing else really caught my eye like that grind did. I do pretty good chipping around with it around the greens and we have some history so why mess with a good thing.

Overall, I think the MD5 wedge line has been a success on tour. Let’s be honest, wedges arent drivers, but identifying a popular line over another is quite interesting. These guys can get a TV remote ground into something useable, so when there is a shift across the staff to a new model, it validates that the ideas in it are sound and the wedge performs like it says it will. For larger tour staffs like Callaway has, operating a 50 percent clip for full line use is a really solid number.

Let’s be clear here, Callaway hasn’t made a bad wedge…like ever. From X Forged to the MD line and now into Jaws, Roger and the team know what they are doing. In my experience with these wedges, I will say that the grooves are ridiculously aggressive, and as Bhatia mentioned, there is a grind to satisfy any conditions.

Do most OEMs make solid wedges? The answer is of course they do; they all do. But the advantage that Callaway has over the rest in this category is Roger Cleveland. Having the man who inspired some of the most iconic wedge shapes ever coupled with a superb R&D team yields a combination that will deliver quality and performance time after time.

Here are some pics from the forums of MD5 out on tour now.

Akshay BhatiaFrancesco Molinari
Brendan GraceIsaiah SalindaJ.J. SpaunAlex Noren
Chun An YunHenrik Stenson Matt Wallace 

Si Woo Kim

Check out the videos below to see me and one of our forum members put Jaws MD5 to the test!

 

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